By PATRICK McCRAY
Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 892
With an insistent Barnabas egging them on, the Todds open the box, releasing the spirit that will eventually be Jeb. Driven by that, and shared commands in dreams, they transform their bedroom into a lightless incubation chamber for him. When the hellspawn arrives, they hover over it obsessively. Meanwhile, Maggie arranges for Carolyn to meet a returning Paul Stoddard at the Blue Whale.
Gee, guys, thanks. Here I was, ready to kick off months of Leviathan-bashing, and you have to get me started with an episode fine enough to rank among the series best and most tightly-written. It’s like a little, open-ended NIGHT GALLERY episode with extras thrown in. Characters do what they are normally so averse to on soaps; take decisive action. The Todds open that box! They read that scroll! They heed that dream! They ready that bedroom! They keep that bassinet! They love that crazy mutant baby! This is all in 22 minutes, mind you. Barnabas is appropriately threatening (if depressingly backsliding since 1897). Maggie sports hot, new, Seventies-forward fashions that make her seem more squarely Sixties than ever. There are choices. There is a destiny. Suspicions. Odd behavior. A beginning, middle, and end. And… Paul Frickin’ Stoddard. At long last. Seeing Dennis Patrick in the role is one of the show’s most surreally palindromic moments. There was something stooped and serpentine about Jason McGuire. It’s astounding how costuming and basic movement work can make the same actor look like a giant. Paul Stoddard is every bit the character we’d want him to be. Handsome, commanding, and yet enough of “one of us” to make us sympathize with how bullied he must have felt by the Collins Class Structure up on the hill. Paul is a fascinating character, and it is a treat and a payoff to finally meet him. I really hesitate to criticize the authors too much. The text is a finished, closed system, and I either accept it or I don’t. But were I to do a remake (always a safe way to phrase it), I’d keep Paul around much longer. So, why didn’t they? In some ways, especially with his Leviathan knowledge, he’s too wise and virile. It’s Bill Malloy all over again. God forbid, with a sane Paul Stoddard around, things might get done in a timely manner. Also, this arc ends up creating a vacuum of deep pain in Carolyn. Another man -- Jeb -- is her only hope. Finding and losing a long-absent father, and one with class differences similar to Jeb, just makes the hunger to be Mrs. Hawkes all the more profound. And an even deeper blow when lost. Carolyn, brace for shrapnel. Nothing personal.
Nov. 4, 1969. Richard Nixon pledged a pullout from Vietnam. At a leisurely pace it would seem. Also, I’ll take off my shirt, oil myself up, and speak in a Texas accent -- for the upteenth time -- to celebrate the birthday of Matthew McConaughey. Maybe Wallace will post pictures this year.